Friday, 11 May 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #898: You Gotta Pay Me To Hype Me!

A lot of people wonder why English speaking Canada's feature film industry is more or less moribund. French language cinema is vital, and competes quite well against the big Hollywood fare within Quebec and other Francophone territories. Quebec cinema even wins awards and scores remake deals from Hollywood.

English Canadian feature films either wither away forgotten, or if it's "successful" end up replaying on a loop late at night on a backwater Canadian cable channel until the tape wears out. English Canadian audiences look at a film that they suspect is Canadian made, and they will stay home, expecting it to be boring, pretentious, and cheaply made with flat cinematography and limp sound.

Not all English Canadian movies are like that, some strive to connect with the audience, but the compact of trust between producer and audience is broken, and will most likely never be repaired as long as they have the sort of mindset that thinks this stunt is somehow clever.

If you're too lazy to click the link, Alliance Films, the country's biggest film distributor, distributes a lot of American movies within, most of them from independent companies like CBS Films, Focus Features, The Weinstein Company and others. 

They're at Cannes to promote their upcoming slate of releases, but if you are a Canadian journalist and want to interview American stars like Brad Pitt about his movie Killing Them Softly, or Kristen Stewart about On The Road, you will have to pay cash on the barrel-head.

Now they can do junket interviews with the stars of their Canadian movies for free, but that's not the point. There aren't that many media outlets in Canada that would bother wasting their precious air time talking about a movie that probably wouldn't be seen outside of the Toronto-Vancouver-Montreal axis, and if you're going to make them pay to talk to the American stars that might actually attract eyeballs, they're not going to waste any time at all.

Sure, Alliance is promising to let the Canadian media talk to the stars when the junket circuit goes to North America, but that doesn't matter, the die has been cast. The Canadian media is going to casually boycott Alliance's releases for a while, and there isn't going to be a damn thing Alliance can do to stop them. Remember, ignoring Alliance's movies is free, a prospect that's even more tempting when they pull a stunt like charging media outlets for the privilege of hyping their product.

Then there are the optics of the whole thing. When you're a movie distributor you have to project an image of being smart, smooth and in control, not like a hare-brained penny-pinching miser who thinks demanding that media outlets pay to hype them is a good idea.

Stupid, stupid move.

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